By: The Rev. Deacon Marilee Muncey, St. Francis, Turlock
Many who have already written this year on the question of “Who is My Neighbor” have reflected on the parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus tells in response to that specific question. I would like to offer another passage of scripture that I believe expands our view of neighborliness, Jeremiah 29:4-7.
Jeremiah has sent a letter to the elders, priests, prophets, and people that had been taken into exile in Babylon. He exhorts them to live full lives by building houses, planting gardens, marrying and having children. In other words, thrive! For me, the verse that expands our idea of neighborliness is verse 7: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Each of the cities or towns in which we live is our neighbor; not just the individuals in it, but the city itself!
So how does an entire city become a neighbor? If we bring Jeremiah’s letter into the present, we see a plan of action: “Build houses and live in them” can point to working with others for affordable, attainable housing for all in the city. “Plant gardens and eat what they produce” calls us to stand together and advocate for the availability of good, healthy, real food in every neighborhood as well as clean water and breathable air. “Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage…” means that as families form we can support them by supporting the schools that children attend (whether we have children of our own there or not) and advocating for expanding and improving parks and green spaces throughout the city.
This describes so much of what Faith in the Valley is doing. Working together, organizers and faith leaders take an honest look at the realities and needs of the cities and towns in all their service areas. Here in Merced we dream, we imagine, we work for the welfare of the city. What will it look like? What will it take to get there? Answers to those questions are as varied as the cities and towns throughout our valley; there is no “one size fits all”. What is important is seeing how even the smallest actions work together to enhance the common good. Working full-time I don’t have as much time to give as I would like. But seeing every action, however small, as part of a larger whole gives me hope that working together with Faith in the Valley I am part of the welfare of my city, my neighbor.